Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Legend of the Noggin-Numbing Eggnog

19 clever quips
Early one winter's eve that first holiday season after we moved into our current home, a neighbor appeared at our front door.

One hand of his held fast to the leash of his basset hound; the other bore what is now my legacy to carry on.

"I bring you some holiday cheer!" announced George, a scholarly gentleman in his late 60s with a snowy Abe Lincoln beard who had lived in the neighborhood for more than three decades. He presented me with his gift, wished me a happy then moved on with his self-appointed rounds.

I closed the door perplexed, partially by having an unexpected visitor on Christmas Eve but mostly by what I now held in my hand.

It appeared to be a repurposed brandy bottle. Inside appeared a liquid whose look and viscosity resembled pancake batter, assuming that, as I learned upon unscrewing the cap and taking a whiff, said batter had been mixed by W.C. Fields and Dean Martin.

While my previous neighbor in Texas and I had on occasion bonded over beers in the rear alley (never fault TV's "King of the Hill" for a lack of suburban Dallas accuracy), this was different. This turned out to be my official rite of passage into our new community: the Yuletide ritual of "The Passing Out Of The Eggnog" which, if not acted upon judiciously by recipients I learned, can quickly devolve into -- yes, Virginia -- "The Passing Out From The Eggnog."

George had been making and sharing his concoction annually since the late 1950s. That’s when he and his roommates at the time became intrigued by a cookbook recipe. When George and his wife moved to Vermont a couple of years ago, they passed down their version of the recipe to some of us at their farewell party; however, succession plans for neighborhood distribution were never discussed.
Encouraged by my wife, who knows of my conflicting desires to want to be the center of attention and to avoid prolonged interaction with people, I have since become The Merry Mixer of Uncool Acres.

My first pass at this new role came last winter. Quarts of milk and cream were emptied, dozens of eggs beaten, and pounds of sugar added even before I had poured the first drops of the rum and brandy.

Ah -- the rum and brandy.

As its imbibers will attest, the effects of this particular eggnog are decidedly warm and, shortly thereafter, inevitably fuzzy.

This, I now know, comes from a nog to non-nog ratio that slightly exceeds 1-to-1. This proportioning explains why one neighbor claimed he kept one of George's bottles in his refrigerator for a year before opening it only to find it unspoiled and even more potent than ever.

Having earlier sampled a quart of my brewing from last December, I confirm the myth. And a slight headache.

Once mixed and bottled, I loaded my sack, harnessed my Labrador retriever and set about the streets to keep the tradition alive. Several people were not home at the time, but when a door opened, I was greeted warmly, and sometimes even with the same perplexed look I gave George several years ago.
As I readied to whip up this season's elixir last week, I became curious about the true origins of this parochial legend and hit the Internet.

Via Google Books, I learned its origins lie in a submission by a Col. C. H. Welch of Tucson, Ariz., for “Wild Moose Milk – A Different Eggnog” that appeared in a mid-century edition of "Adventures in Good Cooking and the Art of Carving" by Duncan Hines, the man who sacrificed his good name to supermarket cake mix everywhere. The ingredients and ratios match George's, though he skipped the "three or four hours" of heating during which one must add the eggs "drop by drop."
"Col. Welch in Tucson must have had servants," George suggested in a recent e-mail to me.
Some other research I did suggests that this may be the same Col. Welch of the U.S. Air Force who was once mixed up in a UFO sighting in the 1950s. Draw your own conclusions.

But even when mixed at room temperature at George instructed, his modified version remains true down to the original's mention that it "keeps indefinitely."

Curiously, though, the instructions for the original concluded, "When serving, the eggnog can be thinned with milk, cream or water."


Some faint of heart folks would suggest that "can" be replaced with "should under all conceivable circumstances." But not me.

Some legendary holiday beasts should never be slain.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Best 'Movie' of 2009

11 clever quips
Today's the annual “Secret Santa Can Suck It” gift swap hosted by the ever-charming Bee of Bee's Musings. This post is about the gift I would have bought the blogger whose name I drew if we were to actually exchange gifts.

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The clerk in the burrito-stained golf shirt smiled as I approached.

“Welcome to MockFluster," he said, "home of fake movies on imaginary DVDs. How can I pretend to help you?”

“I’m looking for a gift.”

“All righty,” he said. “You are one good looking son-of-a-gun. I’d really love to see you in a paper thong.”

“Um, thanks. But the gift’s not for me. It’s for another guy.”

He looked me up and down, licked his lips and gave me a wink.

“Hey!" I yelled. "I don’t ... I never ...  It was one night in a bar and all the guy did was buy me a drink.”

“No need to apologize to me, big fella. Get your kicks any way you like. Now, why don’t to tell me a little bit about this ‘guy’ you are not thinking about naked right now then I'll see what I can do for you.”

After a few minutes of laying out the details, the clerk nodded then walked over to a shelf a few yards from the counter. He pulled down a DVD case and returned.

“I've what you need right here,” he said, slapping the plastic case like a newborn's behind. “It’s a classic tale of a man born in Cyprus to classical concert banjoists only to be whisked away in the middle of the night by a couple of gypsy IT workers. Just like in Raising Arizona.”

“Outside of the kidnapping, that’s nothing like Raising Arizona.”

"It's also nothing like what you'd expect to see in a trailer before Kit Kitteridge: An American Girl, but crazy thing's happen in life, my friend," the clerk said. "Anyway, the gypsies take the boy to Britain. Here, they raise him like their own flesh and blood, teach him their cultural quirks and their rogue trade -- secretly installing Linux systems on personal computers. For revenge!”

“Revenge against what?” I asked.

“Microsoft. The mother gypsy once saw a photo of Bill Gates in a Speedo and it made her sterile.”

“That actually makes some sense," I said. "Go on. I'm intrigued.”

“Yep, it’s a good one, huh?” he said. “Anyway, the kid – deep down he knows he’s not one of them. Then one day, he meets a traveling kebab salesman with a lazy eye. Bam! He understands! He’s really Greek! The gypsies aren’t his parents! The Mentalist is a complete ripoff of Psych and not nearly as entertaining despite its huge ratings and Emmy nominations!”

“Damn, I knew it! Why doesn’t anyone else realize this?!”

“Too numbed by overexposure to the 16 variations of CSI and Law and Order on every other channel. But back to the fake movie," said the clerk. "Our hero runs off to Greece to try to find his one true love -- this totally hot Greek news reader chick he’s been obsessively watching online in between illegal uploads and downloads.” 

“That’s perfect! What’s the name of this fake movie?”

big fat greek wedding poster

My Big Brit Greek Geek.”

“Awesome," I said. "But why ‘big’?”

The clerk tilted his head. He looked like I had just brought him a steaming platter of lamb chops.

"No! No! I withdraw the question," I said. "Just wrap it up, I've got to pretend get this over to Brian at his blog, Brian O Vretanos, before it's too late!"

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Happy holidays, Brian! OPA! Or maybe "Windex!"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tips to Avoid Holiday Overindulging and, Basically, Fun

26 clever quips
chow down fat boy
With the holidays upon us, you'll soon be stuffed to the gills with advice about how to avoid being stuffed to the gills during this most bountiful of buffet seasons.

No matter how reasonable this expert guidance on appetite control sounds, it always proves much trickier to pull off in real life, often because your hands are sticky from devouring miniature candy canes.

Let's review some common suggestions that health professionals offer this time of year and the sad reality that often comes with heeding them.

Tip: To prevent overindulging at a party, eat a light, nutritious snack before arriving.
Eating before you go to an event where food will be plentiful and -- most importantly -- free is, to me, a grave faux pas. Your hosts have most likely spent many hours and dollars on those caviar-stuffed pigs in a truffle-encrusted blanket just to please guests like you. And this is how you repay them?

You should feel guilty, but that's good! Guilt burns up to 1.8 calories an hour.
Tip: Arrive at a party with a healthy dish to share, to ensure you have at least one good food option.
As if eating before you arrived wasn't rude enough. "No, no - your food is rich, delicious and evil! Simply evil! I shan't eat anything but these organic baby carrots I picked up at a health-food store on my way over."

Tip: Avoid the temptation to overeat by not hanging out near the food.

Since hanging out in your host's bedroom is creepy (so I hear) and closets are not conducive to most conversations, especially if you talk a lot with your hands, try the garage.

It may get cold and lonely out there, so bring a sweater.

And a six-pack.

Tip: Mind your portions by using the smallest plate available and loading it mostly with fruit and vegetables.
Of course, there's a good chance the fruit and vegetables being offered will be covered in butter, cheese, peppermint bark or, if you live in rural areas, lime Jell-O. Oh, but YOU brought your own baby carrots, didn't you? La-di-DA!

Tip: For dessert, have small portions of only those items you like the most.
By now, you're starving and the lace on the table doilies looks like spun sugar. So, you sample this dessert to see if you like it most.

Then you sample that one.

Now you go back and try that one again to make sure you reeeeally liked it.

No, no - let's try this one again.





And there you are, face down in the cannoli tray, snorting sweetened ricotta.

At this point, you've realized you're better off staying home with your baby carrots. People then will start to think you're anti-social and, eventually, you'll stop being invited to holiday parties.

Then you'll never gain holiday weight. Problem solved!

To celebrate, you should throw a party of your own because it will allow you to employ this last helpful tidbit:

Tip: When hosting a holiday party, give away all your leftovers.
Oh, and you'll have tons of leftovers. That's because by now all your guests will have also read these articles about how not to overeat during the holidays.

A massive fight will follow in which you, the stick-figured host, and your rail-thin guests pummel each other with bags of baby carrots.

This will make the produce distributor for the local health-food store happy, as you and your friends will have made him rich enough so he can finally afford a personal trainer. And some liposuction.

Anyway, try to have yourself a happy and healthy holiday season, whether you are a party thrower or a partygoer.

If you need me, check the garage.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It Takes a Village Expert (or, in my case, Idiot)

26 clever quips
While doing some research (it could happen) for my post on Bad Holiday Gift Ideas for Dads for DadCentric today, I came across a bunch of 1-minute YouTube videos by a sweet young lady named Ashley for something called the Expert Village channel. In the videos, she offers her suggestions for presents for friends and family.

For a boyfriend: Buy a CD at Wal-Mart or burn a CD of your favorite songs for him. Maybe concert tickets for the two of you.

For a grandfather: Buy him a flag kit so he can proudly display the Texas colors from his porch.

For a teenage girl: Lips gloss and foundation.

Pretty tame stuff.

Then came the gifts for dad, and a reminder that Sarah Palin was right -- I’m not a real American.

Pocket knives and … did she say … ninja swords?



I am going to be quite PO’d if the Things get me another Greatest Dad hat this year.

Then, in the next video I found, Ashley – my poor sweet Ashley – baring her pure angelic soul and broken heart to me.

Yes, dear innocent Ashley, your mom should have warned you.

Never EVER give a boyfriend your pu- … um, ... cat.

Intrigued and a tad obsessed, I felt the need to seek out Ashley and tell her, yes, yes, yes – some guys are dogs and most are dog people. You are from Texas; you should know this. You can’t hunt with a cat, mi lady. They don’t even fit well in the gun racks.

So I went directly to the Village Expert channel to find her and, friends, rather than my fresh faced Lone Star flower, I kid you not, I was smacked in the face with this on the home page:

That’s some fine cinematography. I can’t stop thinking about huge pine cones.

What was I saying?

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Note: Ashley appears to be a college student hoping to become a music therapist. To wash away all the sins I’ve committed against her in this post, I’m embedding this video she put up last night (I was her first viewer) of her singing “O Holy Night.”

PS: Ashley -- I’m not stalking you despite what My Love has been saying all night while I played your videos and typed this. I’m promoting your promising career as a singer/spokesmodel. Just list me in the acknowledgments section of your first CD.

Or send me a ninja sword.

UPDATE: What! She already pulled down the video! Ashley – you’re killing me here. Let’s try “Silent Night” (yes, I was the first viewer for this one, too).

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Can I Interest You in Hanukkah?

25 clever quips
This holiday time of year, our house always draws the oohs and ahhs of visitors as well as at least one look of befuddlement.

That's because amid the 15,000 or so miniature lights twinkling, the array of poinsettias big and small, red and yellow, the yards of greenery snaking around banisters and across mantles, the multiple wreaths, stockings and reindeer statues and the two Christmas trees (fancy fake one for show, homey live one for dough), there stands the epicenter of our guests' annual confusion.

A menorah.

Right next to a silver Santa, bearing a platter of scented tea candles.

santa and menorah

"Funny," our guests will say, "'the name 'Uncool' doesn't sound Jewish."

See, when it comes to religion, My Love and I completely agree.

Neither of us has the answer.

Nor the question.

Nor a clue.

Can't even find the cheat codes on the Internet and yes, I have tried.

This explains our rather odd holiday decorating style. It began one day many years ago with the Things coming home from pre-school all aglow with talk about this fascinating thing they learned about that day.


The Festival of Lights!

One day's worth of oil burning for eight!

Cool little jelly doughnuts!

"Why don't we celebrate Hanukkah?" asked Thing 1, all filled with child-like wonder and those funky hash browns smothered in applesauce.

My Love and I, both lapsed Catholics, looked at each other, shrugged and said "why not" to each other with our eyes as only married people can do. We had agreed long before that we'd be open with our children about the many different points of view in the world on God, faith and the like in hope that some day they would find a path that suited them best. We'd be willing for them to give Hanukkah a try just as long as the Things agreed they weren't using this as a way to wrangle more presents out of us.

My Love quickly purchased a menorah. When you flip it over you find a sticker on the bottom noting its authoritative origins in India and distribution by Pier 1 Imports of Fort Worth, Texas.

I don't recall where the candles come from, but a good guess is the baking section of the local supermarket though I might have been temporarily inspired and gone into a Walgreens.

Darkness fell and we gathered around the kitchen counter, the traditional gathering place for our family on sacred occasions because of its simultaneous access to food, drink and the big screen TV. My Love placed one candle in the center of our shiny new menorah and another on the far left. I squeezed the trigger on our Chinese-made lighter and set the wicks ablaze.

We stood, the four of us, and stared at the flames.

"Now what?" piped up one of the Things.

My Love and I looked at each other blankly. This when we realized a little more research might have come in handy.

I, being the one who hates an awkward silence most, cleared my throat.

A prayer, I thought.

That's it! You must say some kind of prayer when you light the candles!

But what prayer could a ex-Catholic offer over an authentic Made-in-India, Distributed-through-Texas menorah?

I dug deep into my memory banks to find a scrap of what some of my childhood friends had taught all us Gentiles back around the art table in elementary school and I let it soar toward the heavens:

"Oooooh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel -- I made you out of clay! And when you're dried and ready, then dreidel I will play! L'chaim!"

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
A Colbert Christmas: Jon Stewart

Video: Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert, "Can I interest you in Hanukkah?"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bloody I

32 clever quips
bloodshot eyeMy eye is extremely bloody in this photo because I:

  • Got hit by some glass fragments when Tiger Woods' wife broke me out of the Escalade.
  • Am still half in the bag from drinking with the local bloggers last night.
  • Am testing a new reverse method of preventing holiday photo red eye for Adobe.
  • Was weeping for Alex P. Keaton, knowing he could never handle his mom switching family ties.
  • Popped a vessel stifling the laughs while reviewing the new Ray Romano show "Men of a Certain Age" for DadCentric.
  • Beat Thing 2 in a Pokemon battle and it degraded into a 'poke my eye' battle.
  • Thought I needed to experience bloody murder before writing about it in my final entry for Polite Fictions.

C'mon. Your guess is as good as mine.


My Uncool Past